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2 dead, 13 hospitalized in Tokyo after choking on mochi

33 Comments

Two people died and 13 others were hospitalized in Tokyo on Monday after choking on mochi, glutinous rice cakes which are a popular food during the New Year holidays.

According to the Tokyo Fire Department, a man in his 50s from Ota Ward went into cardiac arrest after choking on mochi and was confirmed dead at a nearby hospital, Fuji TV reported. Another man in his 80s, who resided in Edogawa Ward, also fatally choked on the rice cake. Fire department officials said the 13 hospitalized people ranged in age between 55 and 90.

Every year, prior to the New Year holidays, the Tokyo Fire Department advises the public to cut the mochi into bite-size pieces and slowly chew the notoriously sticky food before swallowing.

The department has a website advising people what to do if they see someone choking on mochi.

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33 Comments
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Let me get this straight.

People are warned annually over the danger of choking on mochi. It is well known for choking people who can't or don't eat mochi in a manner that does not end up possibly choking them. Yet they still end up being choked. Is that right?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

As safety conscious as Japan is supposed to be,you would think that by now they would have a safe mochi eating campaign with cheerful mascots and cute adult teenager acting women demonstrating how to properly eat mochi to the applause of an eagerly observant crowd.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Mochi is a very traditional food served year round. Glad that the death toll is same as last year.

Mochi can be had and eaten year round but alas only the deaths at new year get counted.

I been hearing the same for years, cut into small pieces, preferably grill it and have plenty of fluids soup, etc ready for consumption

How many like to drop whole chunks (more than mouthful) into their Zoni makes it rubbery and stringy/hard to chew,.

I usually get round mochi 4cm dia, 8mm thickness, drop in oven toaster for a bit.

We used to have different are for konnyaku jelly years ago.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Different are = similar ads

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

As safety conscious as Japan is supposed to be

15/130,000 people had troubles with it. That's about 0.000015% of the population.

Mochi. So dangerous it should be outlawed to even think about it.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

Even so, a horrible way to die, choking to death, unable to breathe.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Strangerland: "Mochi. So dangerous it should be outlawed to even think about it."

You seem rather jubilant the count was so low instead of being zero deaths. This happens EVERY year, and it is 100% preventable. That's the only zero here, that there is no year we don't read about this. Who is saying mochi should be outlawed besides you deflecting? The poster pointing out Japan's lack of safety conscientiousness on this issue is not wrong, because it happens every time. Maybe people who are around the person who dies need to be held accountable if they served it in large pieces (not much you can do about people who serve it to themselves in large pieces).

1 ( +1 / -0 )

pacint: "Mochi can be had and eaten year round but alas only the deaths at new year get counted."

I doubt that very much, except as "New Year's deaths attributed to mochi". I've no doubt that if someone choked to death on it during the year you can easily find out. It's just that common sense and safety to take a back seat to "tradition" and "convenience" come New Year's.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

You seem rather jubilant the count was so low instead of being zero deaths.

Of course not. It would be nice if people didn't die, but I agree with how things are - fair warning is put out there about the dangers, and some people choose to eat it regardless. If they die as a result, that's their choice, and it's said, but it's their choice, and it's obvious that it's not a big problem, as evidenced by the numbers that are so small, they would be considered insignificant statistically.

The poster pointing out Japan's lack of safety conscientiousness on this issue is not wrong, because it happens every time.

If any infringement upon safety, no matter how small, means a country is not safe, there is literally not a single safe spot on this entire planet.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Mochi is a specialty of New Year season. Japanese think without eating mochi, they do not feel they are celebrating new year. It is not all year round food. In the meantime, I do not give chewing gums to infants. They are as dangerous as giving mochi to old folks.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

This is tragic. What a way to go, choking to death on a gooey rice cake. Hopefully they make their warning labels bigger and brighter from now on. Maybe attach a spring loaded sledgehammer to the packaging.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Just curious. Does this happen anywhere else in the world?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Just curious. Does this happen anywhere else in the world?

The link below says that over 5,000 people choked to death in the USA in 2015. 2,848 of these were aged over 74. Not all were necessarily caused by food.

http://www.nsc.org/learn/safety-knowledge/Pages/safety-at-home-choking.aspx

I don't have similar figures for Japan, but if they are similar, the New Year mochi panic may be just part of normal events.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Alan Whitehead,

“Just curious. Does this happen anywhere else in the world?”

I think it’s safe to say it happens anywhere humans live on the planet.

For instance the National Safety Council in the USA gives a figure of about 5,000 dying from choking in that country in 2015, with more than half of those being aged 74+. They say it was the 4th leading cause of unintentional injury death. An article in HuffPost says choking was the third leading cause for death at home, and mostly involving food. (I forgot to check the year for that.) In adults, contributing factors are alcohol, dentures, difficulty swallowing, talking while eating, eating foods such as nuts, grapes, or popcorn by the handful, eating too big bites of steak and such, texture of certain foods such as peanut butter or bagels. Deaths from choking in children is also a sad reality with about one child dying every five days in the USA.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Need to make it a controlled substance. Only pharmacists can dispense with a prescription.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Forgot to add... ;)=

1 ( +1 / -0 )

How does one choke on mochi unless one rams one's gob full of it? It's perfectly manageable when eaten with chopsticks.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Do they also sell mochi chopped up in safer sized pieces? If not perhaps they need to start.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I had my mochi grilled with bacon, cheese and onion and others with mentaiko and cheese. It was delicious! Every year it's the same thing despite the TV and media campaigns and the written warnings on mochi labels. Ignorance can be cured, but stupidity cannot!

@Strangerland - 15/130,000 people had troubles with it. That's about 0.000015% of the population.

Great math! It's a shame this article only refers to the 15 people in Tokyo though, which would make your calculations out of 16 million, not 130 million. Miss that one, didn't you?

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Of course not. It would be nice if people didn't die, but I agree with how things are - fair warning is put out there about the dangers, and some people choose to eat it regardless. If they die as a result, that's their choice, and it's said, but it's their choice...

Yes, it is sad, but you are assuming that those who die, know about the dangers of eating mochi or have been warned of the dangers of possibly choking on them. One would think they would know but that is only an assumption.

In addition to public safety, there could be product liability issues and at question is whether the dangers is common knowledge or not: nam ips scientia potentia est.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Do they also sell mochi chopped up in safer sized pieces? If not perhaps they need to start.

They probably should. The nearly square pieces are marked with vertical and horizontal lines like the kanji 田 as if to suggest cutting them into safer sizes.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Any death is significant!

To reason that only statistical sigicance is relevant really misses the point......

1 ( +1 / -0 )

About 5 years ago, I had mochi at my brother-in-law's house. For a few days after that, I was throwing up everything I had been eating. The last time was the mochi which I guess had been blocking any food coming in. That was the last time I ever ate it.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I just find mochi the blandest of all food.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Pukey2Today 01:04 am JST

I just find mochi the blandest of all food.

I guess if you eat only mochi, then it might be bland, but so is bread, rice, and pasta if you eat it with no sauce or toppings.

Yes, of course it's sad that people die from choking on mochi, but IMO, people have been warned time and time again using different media outlets... and if people still do not take precautions, then who is to take responsibility other than those who make the choice to ingest it? It's not like mochi is lethal by nature... companies don't sell or serve mochi laced with poison, or with razor blades stuck in it.

I read once that hot dogs are one of the top choking hazards for children (in the US). Has anybody ever heard people trying to make hot dog manufacturers or servers liable for choking on a dog? Well, maybe in America, any lawsuit is possible...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

“I read once that hot dogs are one of the top choking hazards for children (in the US). Has anybody ever heard people trying to make hot dog manufacturers or servers liable for choking on a dog? “

I haven’t, but I haven’t done much research on the subject. I have done enough to know that nowadays in the USA it’s recommended that grapes, hot dogs, and such be sliced before being fed to small children. When I was a kid, I was just taught to take small bites and chew well.

Quertecum,

Although the slits on some commercially available mochi make cutting into small pieces easier, I think their original purpose was to make the mochi puff up nicely. But I’m not sure. And wasn’t there a lawsuit a few years ago about whether those lines could be patented or not? In any case, a fair amount of mochi is still homemade so is not going to come with any product warnings.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Honestly, doubt that many Tokyoites got the space or means to homemake mochi will be bought.

Those lines on mochi can help cutting but not their purpose, the round bitesized mochi I use is great, grilling it gives it a crunchy exterior.

Never knew the dangers Pretzels, guess we all learn a lot raising kids, looking after family members.

BTW, Niku-man, bread, etc pose a similar hazard as does konnyaku (jelly).

0 ( +0 / -0 )

For those who enjoy reading about patent-related lawsuits in Japanese here is a link about the mochi slit case involving the two big makers, Sato and Echigo, complete with diagrams of the different slit types involved:

http://www.ypat.gr.jp/ja/case/patent/07.html

I can never remember which brand has which type of slits because I never buy the white mochi as we prefer brown rice mochi.

Pacint,

Making mochi at home doesn’t require a lot of space, a mochi making machine is maybe just slightly bigger than a rice cooker or bread maker.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Granted, not all rice-cokers can do Mochi rice, but I was talking more traditional pounded mochi. But my former does bread(standard not rice bread)

Recall many trips to resorts and mochi was made year-round

Never had Genmai mochi but I order genmai 30kg/8.000yen online.

Need to try it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Pacint,

If you like brown rice, I’m sure you’ll be able to find a brown rice mochi that you like. There are many brands all with their own characteristics. Available at natural food stores, some local product shops, and of course, online at multiple sites. I love brown rice mochi grilled in sesame oil as a topping for noodles or in other soups.

Hadn’t looked at mochi making machines for quite a while but a cursory online search just now indicates they are even smaller than they used to be and some even steam the rice before pounding. With my mother-in-law’s old one we had to steam the rice on the stove and then dump it in the machine.

In any case, whatever type of mochi you like, and regardless of who makes it, please be careful when eating or feeding to others so as not to end up in the yearly statistics!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Educatir60.

Thanks for your post.

Yeah, I get strange faces, etc when people realise I eat Genmai, old thinking, etc.

Totally ignoring that genmai used to be the norm.

Granted Genmai in supers, etc is pricey, hence I order online (free delivery).

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Educator60Jan. 3 09:15 am JST

I have done enough to know that nowadays in the USA it’s recommended that grapes, hot dogs, and such be sliced before being fed to small children.

Right, but people rarely do so... not saying that makes it ok, but my point being that only so many resources can be spent on warning people.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Pacint,

Youre very welcome.

Tahoochi,

I certainly agree that many people ignore the recommendations (half my US family still wolfs downs handfulls of nuts for instance). And for those of us who’ve been on the planet longer, the yearly earnings on mochi for instance do get repetitious and we might start to wonder how effective they are. I suppose the only way to find out would be to completely stop all such public education for a number of years and then see if the death rate goes up. What the perfect balance and appropriate amount of public money to spend on such efforts is, I have no idea.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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